Judith C. Heitzman, Ph.D., LCSW
Kent School of Social Work
Social Work 677 - Advanced Social Work Practice III
Dr. Judy Heitzman prepares graduate level social work students for their future careers. For her assignment with this year’s Part-Time Faculty Learning Community, she elected to “create a classroom format for integrating assessment and recommended evidence-based practice intervention skills in social work practice in the area of crisis and/or trauma response.” The goal of the project was to address a student-reported gap in skills for assessing and intervening in traumatic situations. Specifically, “graduate students in the classroom and in field placements have reported having difficulty differentiating issues like triage, crisis intervention, appropriate referrals, and creation of stopgap measures when referrals are unavailable.”
Aware that students often lack practice integrating the necessary skills of assessing and intervening in the various situations they will face in the field, Dr. Heitzman created a “Crises Intervention Activity” which involved a PowerPoint presentation on specific types of crises, appropriate interventions, and common mistakes made in such situations. Students were then divided into groups and given instructions relating to managing their group, along with a “crises situation” to assess and manage. Following time for group processing, each group reported a brief summary of their assessment and recommended interventions. The entire class was then engaged in offering feedback – discussing the pros and cons of the intervention strategies chosen. Dr. Heitzman reports that this teaching approached resulted in a “rich and fertile discussion” about how to assess and manage such crises situations in the “real world.”
As the conclusion of the exercise, Dr. Heitzman asked students to complete a “One-Minute Paper” describing something they learned as well as any “muddy” points that needed clarification. She was delighted to discover that “students also expressed an increased confidence in their ability to intervene successfully in a crisis.” Students also gained clarity about the importance of their specific role in a community effort. Dr. Heitzman highlighted the importance of this awareness for social workers: social workers need to “wear many hats, but they do not need to wear them all at once, or to usurp roles already filled.” In addition to the specific case assigned them for this exercise, each class section was tasked with creating an intervention for a community crisis and a toolkit for use in future crises. According to Heitzman, students expressed appreciation at the coupling of these assignments, which they believed prepared them more deeply for their future as professional social workers.